Okay maybe we had five men, two ladies, and a baby, but there wasn't a goofy 80's comedy with that title. Also, if you're having trouble reading the text on my friend's new born baby's t-shirt, it says "Future Beer Snob." His father's a professional beer writer, both of his parents are beer enthusiasts, and at less than 7 weeks old this little guy has already experienced a winery crawl and a brewery crawl. All this before he is even old enough to crawl himself. He deserves some serious respect. We trekked all across the magical land of Long Island City in Queens, NY to four breweries (Transmitter, LIC Beer Project, Big Alice, and Rockaway) plus made a brunch stop at a craft beer bar (Alewife). Not once did we hear him cry. Wish I could say the same held true for all the men in our group as well... Okay nobody cried but a couple of us may have slobbered and slurred our speech a little, didn't want to baby to feel out of place at all...
There are a few factors to consider when planning a proper brewery crawl. I should know because I have a 100% success ratio as an organizer. Exactly 1 out of 1 brewery crawls that I have helped organize turned out beautifully. First off, its not a pub crawl, meaning the goal is to taste as much as possible not to drink as much as possible and wake up naked in the middle of a Walmart parking lot. Never again. Breweries often serve flights, small taster size pours (4oz), and some times even give out free samples. Take advantage of these things!
Secondly, include a stop for a "real meal" in your itinerary. Most breweries have snacks, some have nothing but beer, and very seldom do you come across one that serves something more substantial than a brat and soft pretzel. Not only did we work-in a brunch break, but we were fortunate enough to find one that logistically made sense, had great food, and a killer tap list. It was during this part of our adventure that one of our crawl-mates came up with a million-dollar idea. He had eaten biscuits and gravy for breakfast earlier that morning, but while perusing the brunch menu he noticed that one of their most temping sounding items was a specialty version of biscuits and gravy that included fried chicken, a sunnyside up egg, and duck-fat gravy. Once proposed, we all agreed a biscuits and gravy crawl would definitely be the next big trend in the crawl world. Feel free to steal the idea but we want free tickets if you actually make it happen.
The tap list there at Alewife was exceptional with around 30 drafts, all of which were either well known gems like Hills Farmstead or local rising stars like Sloop. The only disappointment at this stop was Barrier Fantastical. It's described as a super juicy pale ale. I've had several Barrier brews in the past. A couple of which were exceptionally juicy, Their collab with Other Half called Make it Rain is an all star juice maker of an IPA. Fantastical was not. I'm not sure what was the true source of the problem but this beer was flat, bready, malt forward, and there was no juice to be found.
The third and maybe most important consideration to make when planning a brewery crawl is that unless you happen to be in San Diego, California or Portland, Maine; its a blessing to be within walking distance of enough breweries to even constitute a legit crawl. So keep your beer quality expectations low to prevent any major let downs.
Of the four breweries we visited I wouldn't label any of them as outstandingly bad or particularly great either. Keeping it positive the highlights were these:
Transmitter was the most visitor friendly, the gave free 3oz sample pours from three different beers. They are unique in that they had nothing on tap, everything there was bottled. Transmitter specializes in Farmhouse ales and Saisons, but the stand out for me was their G4 tart golden ale. It may have been the first time I had experience tart pineapple and I really enjoyed that pallet confusion.
Rockaway had the most fun, upbeat, party vibe of any location that day. Their standout was their E.S.B. which I give them credit for making a stand out beer in a genre that most often gets overlooked by the DIIPA's, Stouts, and Sours these days.
Big Alice was the most experimental and had the most interesting flavor combinations. Some worked and some missed their target but I was definitely more excited reading the descriptions of their beers compared to any of the other stops that day. A Belguim White Stout, Jalapeno Rye Ale, Peppermint Stout (in late April), these guys don't do vanilla, okay I love vanilla but you know what I'm getting at.
LIC Beer Project, wow this place is nice. If I made a list of the best breweries to take a date to LIC would surely make the cut. They are starting to gain some local recognition for their sours and I hope they continue on that path. The two they featured that day Gal Friday and NYS made us wish they had six sours on tap and two Belgians rather than the opposite.
If you've ever done a brewery crawl post about it here in the comments, we'd love to hear your experiences, tips, successes, and fails. Hoppy trails!